It’s tough to say how many interviews Paul McCartney has done over the course of his six-decade-plus career. Now, Macca has recently reached the top of the Billboard 200 charts with his critically-acclaimed 18th studio album Egypt Station and he’s been doing a lot of press to support it. At 76, the former Beatles frontman has a lifetime of musical memories to explore and he sat down with “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi to discuss some of them in a very open, humble manner in a segment that aired last night (Sept. 30) on CBS.
Paul McCartney and John Lennon are revered as one of the greatest songwriting teams in music history and the Beatles White Album is approaching its 50th-anniversary milestone. Here are five fascinating takeaways about Lennon and McCartney that Macca candidly revealed in his “60 Minutes” sit-down, during the broadcast and in “60 Minute Overtime” online extras.
1. “Michelle” was born out of McCartney’s attempt to impress girls at parties and Lennon encouraged him to turn it into a song.
Diehard Beatles fans may already know “Michelle” started as a party song. But, McCartney explained it in a fun way during a “60 Minutes Overtime” clip saying, “John went to art school and so me and George were like the young kids, crashing the party. We’d work in a black roll neck sweater to try and look very French. I’d often take the guitar and sit in the corner (mimics playing), thinking some girl would go ‘wow’. For some crazy reason, his attempts to grab girls’ attention didn’t work. But, years later Lennon said to him, “Remember that crazy little French thing you had? You should finish that.”
This “crazy little French thing” ended up on The Beatles iconic 1965 album Rubber Soul. The album topped charts in multiple countries, including the U.S. and the UK. Other notable tracks on the album include “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “In My Life” and more; though “Drive My Car” and “Nowhere Man” and two other tracks were removed from the U.S. version of the record.
“Michelle” is a standout with its French lyrical phrases and Lennon’s middle-eight addition to the track’s musical structure. It became a No. 1 hit in France, Belgium, The Netherlands and New Zealand. It won a Song of the Year Grammy Award in 1967 and Macca notably played the song for First Lady Michelle Obama after he was awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by President Barack Obama in 2010.
2. McCartney and Lennon were competitive in their songwriting endeavors.
McCartney said he and Lennon “were competitive” in songwriting, but “not openly” and it wasn’t until later they admitted they were thinking “So Paul’s written a good one. I’d better get going” and he would similarly be going, “Mmm, that’s a bit good, right. Here we go, c’mon. If he would write ‘Strawberry Fields,’ I would write ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘he’s remembering his old area in Liverpool, so I’ll remember mine.’”
Paul McCartney and John Lennon have undeniably been regarded as one of the greatest songwriting teams of all time. Online debates still exist and challenge which Beatle wrote the “majority” of a given Beatles song. But, Lennon and McCartney had an agreement they would use dual Lennon and McCartney credit, no matter who wrote a song.
A Chicago Tribune report referenced William J. Dowdling’s “Beatlesongs” book noting the author’s research revealed the pair shared the workload evenly on about 17 songs and most were written by one or the other, with 61 of them written by Lennon and 43 written by McCartney. In all, Lennon composed about 84.55 of the Beatles’ 209 songs and McCartney composed 73.65, per this research.
3. Paul McCartney wanted John Lennon to like his songs, and he only paid him one compliment.
Wanting acceptance from our peers is a pretty common human desire. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like the rule should apply for members of the biggest band in music history. But, superstars are human too and as such, Macca wanted Lennon’s approval on his songs. When asked if they complimented each other on their songs Paul replied, “Once, John gave me a compliment. Once, in a long, long time. I think it was Revolver. “Here, There and Everywhere” was one of my songs on it and John, just when we finished, said, ‘That’s a really good song, lad. I love that song.’ And I was like, ‘Yes! He likes it!’ And I’ve remembered it to this day. It’s pathetic, really.”
He noted he would tell him “his stuff was great” and added, “You’d normally have to be a little bit drunk. It helped.”
4. Lennon turned to McCartney for reassurance about how he would be remembered.
Throughout the interview, it was quite remarkable to see how “human” Sir Paul McCartney, a living legend, really is. From saying something as simple as “I’m a dad, I’m a granddad, I’m a husband. I’m all those things” to admitting his own insecurities and confessing even he “worries” about things.
In an emotional moment, he spoke of comforting Lennon, who also battled insecurity. He said, “I remember John was a bit insecure. I remember him once, particularly, strangely out of the blue saying, ‘I worry about how people are gonna remember me.’ I was like, John, listen to me. Look at me. You’re gonna be remembered as one of the greatest people. (I’m getting choked up). I said because you are, you know, you’re fantastic.”
5. Macca often has dreams about John Lennon and George Harrison, whose loss is still mourned by millions of people and fans around the world.
The world still mourns John Lennon’s tragic, senseless death at gunpoint in 1980 and George Harrison’s passing after losing his battle with cancer in 2001. Their music both as members of The Beatles and beyond will remain an indelible imprint on the face of music history and in fans’ hearts forever.
McCartney has often recounted the iconic story of “Let It Be” being inspired by a dream about his mother, who had passed, telling him to just “let it be.” When asked if he ever dreams about John, he replied, “I often have dreams about John or George. I often dream about people who aren’t here anymore. I think that’s one of the great things about dreams because you get to re-meet them. You get to hang out with them and it’s only when you wake up that it’s oh, (snaps). Oh, yeah, it was a dream.”
“Let It Be” went on to become one of the most beloved songs in the Beatles’ extensive catalog, topping charts in multiple countries, including the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and the UK Singles chart. It was the band’s final single before McCartney announced his split from the group and hails from the Beatles’ 12th and final studio album of the same name. Beatles fans and beyond have to arguably admit that this song being spawned from advice Macca’s mother gives him in a dream is more than a little bit magical.